This week I have been focused on crafting research questions that balance specificity with breadth and do not betray my interests along the way. Despite several months of effort, beginning with my initial interest in this topic, through to the complete draft of my research proposal, I am still unsatisfied with my stated research agenda. I have tried to be patient with myself and wait for that “aha!” moment when you find the missing puzzle piece, but so far I am still looking. In part, I feel unsettled because I am unsure how to explore my tentative research questions – should I partner with an organization and conduct focus groups and interviews? Should I volunteer for an organization or collective as a participant-observer and do an ethnographic study?
I think the source of my dissatisfaction is related to ethical questions I have about conducting research as a white person with multiple sources of privilege. I have been considering writing an email to a couple organizations here in Arizona and in Durham, NC to explain that I need to conduct research to obtain a Ph.D., and ask whether research could be of use to their organization and people they work with. I guess I feel that approach is more ethical than imposing my research agenda on an organization or collective that I partner with, but I also feel there might be ways to answer the questions the collective needs answered while answering my own (not that they would necessarily be exclusive) at the same time. Our class this semester has addressed many of these issues and in fact, has positioned them as urgent and necessary; reflexivity, reciprocity, accountability.